Speaking to FoodNavigator-USA after unveiling a new social media campaign to promote recent additions to its salty snacks portfolio (organic cheddar puffs and popcorn), Annie’s marketing director Dan Stangler said: “We’re growing, growing share, and accelerating.
“Annie’s is performing really well, across the total brand, but what we’re really excited about is that we’re connecting with more people... We’re growing household penetration faster than any other food brand in the US now, and we’re both proud of this and really grateful, as we’ve been working to create un-junked alternatives to kids and family favorites for nearly 30 years, and to be at this point in our history and to have this momentum, we couldn’t be more humbled and excited."
Annie’s consumers are more likely to shop online
So where is the growth coming from?
“We increased distribution in conventional channels after joining General Mills," he acknowledged. "But we continue to have significant growth in the natural channel where we have always had strong distribution.”
Annie’s is also seeing strong growth in e-commerce sales, he said.
“We want to provide individual items people are searching for specifically, because that’s one kind of behavior, but we also partner closely with players offering full baskets, and the good news is that we over-index with shoppers on ecommerce: Annie’s consumers are more likely to shop online, Millennial parents with kids in the household that are 12 years and younger.”
The new digital marketing campaign, which launched on facebook this week and was developed with ad agency Pereira & O'Dell NY, targets these parents with fun reminders that kids don’t always make the best choices, especially at snack time, and features the strapline, ‘Your House. Your Snacks,’ said Stangler.
“I’ve got four kids that are school age and they’ve done all sorts of crazy things – eating sand, coloring all over themselves in the house, aggressive and unapologetic nose-picking - which can be frustrating and maddening but in hindsight created some of the best memories. It’s about that fun dynamic where kids don’t always make the best choices, but when it comes to snacks, parents can help choose snacks that kids love and parents can also feel good about.”
Strong fun content with a helpful message
Successful social media ad campaigns typically involve relevant content, opportunities to share, and interactive elements, said Stangler. “It’s about engagement and sharability.
“We want to be relevant, reach people when they are receptive, and approach them with a lot of empathy. Strong fun content with a helpful message are powerful and appreciated when they are done well, but are an interruption than they are not done well. So for example, we are creating opportunities for parents to share the crazy things their kids have done and people that do that will be entered into a draw to win a year’s supply of cheesy puff snacks.
“Facebook is a very important platform because of the reach and engagement relative to other platforms, especially for the adults we are looking to connect with on this campaign, who are spending a lot of time on facebook. The targeting capabilities also continue to improve.”
Some snacks are treats
So what is the Annie’s snacking proposition? Truly ‘healthy’ snacks, or cleaner-label versions of more traditional snacks such as cookies, fruit gummies and so on?
“We consider our offering to be better for people because we have a focus on certified organics and we’ve eliminated artificial flavors and preservatives, and avoid chemicals and pesticides at the farm level.”
But if your kids like cheesy puffs, Annie’s offers a version that is organic, non-GMO, has whole grains, and no artificial flavors, synthetic colors or synthetic preservatives, he said.
“It’s a balancing act. Some snacks are treats. We look and see what kids like and what parents need and that includes a lot of things that parents grew up with but they want to see with a better twist.”
Innovation to come in yogurt
So what’s in the pipeline at Annie’s?
“We see a lot of opportunities to go deep in categories we are already in,” said Stangler, who wouldn’t give anything away, but said he was particularly “excited about a pipeline of innovation in the yogurt space.”
Cereal launches have been a hit
More innovation is also slated for the cereal aisle, he said, noting that the consumer response to recent innovations including oat, corn and rice cereals cocoa bunnies, berry bunnies, and frosted oat flakes, has been “really strong… it’s certified organic, fairtrade cocoa, real fruit, less than 10g sugar per serving across the board.
“It shows that we can do the job that people count on Annie’s to do, to delight kids and help parents feel better.”